A Manual Approach to Wedding Photography by Joao Medeiros

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A Manual Approach to Wedding Photography

by Joao Medeiros

I’m not comfortable writing. Images, particularly photography are what drives me. Since very young Art was part of my life, I went from painting and waiting to be an architect to abandon everything for a life in the theatre, just to pursue a career in Jazz playing trumpet.

But at my twenties, I was struggling to make it and everyone was making sure I knew I had to earn money to be a successful individual. Money was never my interest, I’m passionate about Art, any form of it. But Photography had a degree of intimacy and control that I had never experienced.

I went to college to take a photography bachelor and complemented it with a bachelor in Fine Arts and a master’s degree in Visual Arts teaching, things went on for a while, drifting in teaching, corporate/event photography, restoration related jobs before I finally found the one area where I had complete creative freedom. A freedom that allows me to choose the gear that gives me pleasure while creating and expressing myself through Photography and eventually sharing my Vision.

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Weddings are something that has been with society since we had the need to express our love for our life companion. Happiness is something that needs to be shared and celebrated with our loved ones. And that’s what I like about them, it’s all about family and friends making the most of Life. When I was in college, I did the whole course with only an Olympus OM 1 and a 50mm, since then manual focus is second nature to me, even when I had top DSLR’s AF never grew on me. But when I used the first serious EVF (Panasonic GH2) I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to see while composing. Eventually, when I step up to weddings I needed the best dynamic range and colour I could get my hands on it, so I bought a Sony A99 and a Nikon D800e to figure out my needs. After a year the Sony won me, not because it was superior to the D800e, it was Sony’s approach to photography that made it. The fully articulated LCD, I. S and Minolta’s heritage all over the place made the A99 a superior tool in my hands.

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When the mirrorless Sony A7 appeared on the scene I had no doubts and bought one immediately with a set of Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander lenses with the VM close adapter. Since then, shooting has been a real pleasure. Nothing beats feeling your shots, even when we are capturing fleeting moments like kisses, exchanging vows/wedding rings or sharing a secret while on the dance floor at 4 am. Having a small, robust camera with the best glass in the industry makes me feel very confident and secure that when I get home, I have all I need to put together a body of work that reflect my vision. That’s the main lesson I learned, you really need to follow your own unique vision of things.

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We are all different, but you really need to push beyond the limits to reach for that inner voice. Recently I added the amazing sigma Art 35mm f 1.4 to my set, the only complain is its sheer size when compared to my little Zeiss ZM 35mm f2. My workflow is pretty straightforward, I use B&W mode to concentrate on composition and focus while having red peaking and magnify to guarantee that every moment is in focus. For 75% of all my work, I use the 35mm focal length with my Sony A7 and take advantage of the articulated LCD from the A99 to get more discrete and intimate portraits with the 85mm, also from Sigma. Just a little detail, I removed the slt mirror from the A99 and use it in manual focus, so it’s basically a big mirrorless camera. I’m more of a guest than a professional photographer, at least that’s how I’m perceived by my clients, family and friends. A friend who happens to make a living from photography. I really try to enjoy the wonderful day, conscious that I’m very fortunate to be at a private party while making a living. I’m always the first to arrive and the last to leave, it’s after all a body of work and not just a staged kiss with the golden hour moment. It’s people that drive me, the concept of family and friendship not staged moments.

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I’m looking forward to get the new Sony A7RII since it brings some new features like a new and stronger shutter that it’s better damped, the I. S, min. auto shutter, copyright embed info, better high ISO performance and even the silent shutter option although with some caveats.

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Thank you.

Regards

João de Medeiros

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44 Comments

  1. João, I am also a Portuguese photographer and am blown away by the quality of your work. Your work really does stand out in a world that is saturated by photos, a feat so dificult to achieve!

  2. You can’t see any of the guests or their faces. You’ve made a wedding look like a sombre affair in my view. Just sayin’

    • There must be an error, I don’t think you’re commenting on the same blog post as the rest of us. Most of these images infuse happen-stance moments with an artistic aura many wedding photographers aspire to, but ultimately lose in the call of duty.

    • Hey Mike, I don’t recall sharing a full wedding with you. Did I? My portfolio only shows what what I feel anyone can see while preserving the identity of all evolved, your forgetting that wedding are private events, I never forget that. It’s someones friends, families and guests. That’s the main reason why I don’t show a full wedding, only in meetings and in prints/Photobooks. If your a bride the photographs I show are sufficient to show my technique and style, if she’s interest an email should follow with details about the weddings, where I quickly follow with my rates and a few “slideshows” showing a full wedding and what a couple can expect. Privacy and identity of my clients are always protected.

  3. Excellent article! You are an inspiration for me. It is one of the greatest articles in this site. Thanks!

  4. One of the best posts about wedding photog.there’s something wonderfully different about the shots. Thanks for posting!

  5. Joao: Excellent article and fabulous images showing your unique style and vision. My favorite is the image of the bride under the tree.

    Keep up the great work,
    David

  6. VERY impressive, Joao!! Even the writing!

    (I found this is one of the most touching articles that were ever published here, with incredibly beautiful pictures. Respect!)

  7. This is a fantastic post. I have a very similar setup (A99, A7, Sigma 35). João, it would be great if you could comment on your technique for manually focusing on moving subjects. Thanks in advance for sharing.

    • Hi Arize, sorry for the late feedback. Just search on rangefinder focus techniques… it’s the same but I apply all the peaking/magnify I have. It’s all about anticipating moments, since I use B&W mode I see the world in, well, Black and white and what’s in focus is in red. To be sure anything is in focus when using “fast” aperture I quickly press magnify that’s I customize into the AF/MF button. For aperture above f4 I use zone focusing a lot. Did it helped Arize? Thank you for the comments, really appreciate the warm recognition of my hard work. Best wishes.

  8. Congrats!!!
    I love your sensitivity. Great, great pics! The yellow shoe, the couple climbing the stairs and the boy with the soap-bubbles are total and absolute masterpieces!
    I am not a pro even though doing some semi-pro work.
    I am truly happy to see that my 35/85mm fixed-lens-ONLY-don’t-even-think-about-a-zoom philosophy is not an illusion for marriages and events! And generates amazingly creative pics.
    My dream is to “get there” also shooting film. Do you still do that?

    Cheers

    • Yes, absolutely. I always take portraits photos of the couple with my Konica Instant Press and some Fuji FP 3000b. But Fuji has other plans unfortunately…..I still have some film cameras, I love my Minolta Alpha 7 with the Sigmas and a nikkor 50mm f 1.2 with alpha mount. If I had the time and money to invest I would buy a dedicated 35mm scanner.

  9. Beautiful personal style that breaks from the norm of clichéd wedding photography in a wonderful way. I’m sure the brides and grooms will treasure and cherish the unique images you capture for them. Well done and thanks for sharing…

  10. I’m truly impressed by your pictures. You have a natural eye for beauty and clearly no need for AF.

    Respect!

    • Thank you Dan! I’m not saying that mf is the solution for everyone, but for me it makes me be more in the moment, it’s almost slow motion when I’m taking the shot. With AF I always got the feeling I was “high” and the camera felt like a machine gun….almost like Al Pacino in “scarface”. Regards!

  11. I appreciate the thoughtfulness behind your approach to photography. The pictures you shared display palpable atmosphere and emotion — something that is often lacking in photography. Bravo!

    • Thank you for you kind words Victor. The manual focus slows me down in a good way, I don’t miss any moment at all but I’m more “in the moment”. Best wishes.

  12. Inspiring! Love your technique and intimacy of your photos! I strive for similar but get swayed away by bride’s Pintrest aspirations and I lm not fond of large group photos. I too want the A7Rii but am sitting tight with my A7S and A7ii.

    • Thank you Juan! In a industry where all the attention goes to engagements sessions it’s really rare to hear compliments about my work. Thank you my friend, best wishes.

      • So true! I am sharing your work with my wife. We are on this journey together as photographers and love examples of work like this, which is what we aim for. I have moved to shooting all my personal work with manual glass, but only have 2 weddings under my belt so have stuck with AF lenses thus far. The 70-200 FE lens has actually kicked my a$$ as found it can easily back focus on the bride and groom during the ring exchange if you dont keep an eye on the focus point.

        Planning on doing more manual work within the next 3 weeks as we tackle our 3rd wedding. Our Loxia 50mm mounted on our A7S will probably be the setup I use. I think you will agree you truly feel engaged as a photographer when capturing a moment with full manual control!

        • Yes, i feel I’m more in the moment with manual focus. “Feeling” things, even if it means more hard work.

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